March 22, 2007
All Thursday, people asked me if I was surprised that Tubby Smith left Kentucky for Minnesota. The answer is no, I was not shocked because after a while, Tubby Smith took enough abuse from the passionate fans in Lexington.
Think about the numbers: five SEC regular season titles, five SEC tournament titles, a 263-83 record with the Wildcats, and a national championship in 1998, his first season there. Yet the expectations were so high that fans were disappointed despite averaging over 26 wins a season there. At most places, if you win 26 games a year, they build a statue for you.
At Minnesota, Smith has a chance to be a hero. He gets a fresh start at a place where the expectations are a lot different. If he can lead the Golden Gophers to the NCAA tournament next season, he'll be revered.
As for the fans in Lexington, they had a great coach that did not get enough respect for what he accomplished.
Now look at the Big Ten, Wow. The coaches are pretty impressive when you look at Thad Matta, Tom Izzo, Kelvin Sampson, Bruce Webber and on and on. Michigan can still make a splash with its new coach.
I wish Tubby and Donna Smith all the best at Minnesota. How about a salute to the Golden Gophers administration for making big news by hiring an outstanding coach in Tubby Smith.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.